Just over 500 years ago Europe experienced the Reformation. The nations had been under the yoke of the pope of Rome. The pope controlled all things eternal and temporal, including kings and all their decisions. There are a lot of parallels between that time and today. Let’s have a look at a few.
Today global finance has virtual control of the world. In 2011, Roger Altman, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury under President Clinton claimed that financial markets were “acting like a global supra-government… they have become the most powerful force on earth.” After the Second World War President Eisenhower warned that the future would see the rule of the technocracy. That is, the financial powers that controlled the emerging new technologies would become stronger than governments and would usurp rule over nations acting in their own self-interests, and not in the interests of democracy or their nation states.
When I was young monopolies were illegal in Australia. It was the Thatcher/ Reagan era that changed that, freeing markets to act without state regulation. Now financial control has been centralised and accumulated into a small number of hands, such that 1% of the world’s population owns over 50% of the world’s wealth. Governments have lost sovereignty over their nations, no matter how many elections they may hold within their nations. Governments must obey global powers, or they sink. This is not a surprise nor a conspiracy theory: it is the simple reason why the founders of the USA described the British East India Company as an imperium in imperio, a sort of “state within a state.” The danger they sought to avert has become the reality today. This has huge implications, not only for the widening the poverty gap for so many people, but also for the demise of democracy and freedom. Governments are now under the control of global finance, like they were once under the control of the pope, but with their increased technological ability this control is now far reaching and can be far more comprehensive.
This is one reason why China has become vogue during the “Covid crisis.” Their authoritarianism has become an accepted model with the leading technocrats of the world, even though it breaches all the norms of our democratic freedoms. By adopting their systems of surveillance and enforcement, leading financial powers can control the world in massive future markets. This is playing out before our eyes today, especially with issues about vaccination and health freedoms which are highly at risk now. The future doesn’t look good, unless these financial powers are brought back under the control of regulation. Again, this is not a conspiracy theory: it is a real concern that all our nations were very careful about at their inception. Now that we have our new toys to play with in the ever-improving technological world, we don’t care about and are dull to the very important safety nets being eroded before our eyes.
In the lead up to the Reformation the most important issue at stake was freedom to preach the gospel. This has been at stake for many years even in “free democracies” in our modern times. In the Reformation people lost their lives for preaching the truth, today people are censored from social platforms and lose their jobs. The Reformation was inevitable because eventually people would rather die in the hands of a loving God than live in the tyranny of lies. We are approaching this situation today when people will rather have freedom than the false promises of technology and prosperity. Tyranny in the end can’t succeed for this reason, but that doesn’t mean despots won’t keep trying.
Maybe we can draw some lessons from the Reformation for today:
- Hating the Catholics was a very unfortunate error. Even today, calling all Catholics the antichrist is the 11th commandment of many Evangelicals. Or conspiracy theorists will call the pope today a chief collaborator in a global dictatorship. Catholic faith can be very deep, and Christ centred and when we hate others, they end proving to be better than ourselves. Today, this could mean hating or demeaning others along political lines.
- The Reformation often degenerated into nationalism on both sides, with industrial and imperial competition as the main aim, with armies, war and killing of the “enemy in the name of Christ.” In this, both sides were opposed to Christ. Even today, Protestant faith is often pragmatic, individualistic, and commercial, under a veneer of faith. It can lack the depth of true spirituality.
- The newly invented print press was one of the Reformation’s main weapons. When Martin Luther had a vision of Satan coming against him, Luther threw his ink well at him. Truth was disseminated far and wide through writing and printing.
This gives us a lead in overcoming today’s dictatorship. It has been said that the internet is the new printing press. Therefore, maintaining our freedom of speech on the internet is essential. We need to be on platforms that aren’t dominated by Google, Facebook and other censoring and controlling digital giants. These giants also inhibit new ideas, as they behave like all monopolies by stopping competition. We need to encourage platforms that don’t break privacy, that don’t undertake surveillance and tracking, that don’t store and sell our personal data, and that don’t censor free speech and that don’t block access to information (modern “book burning.”) We need to be on the internet today, bypassing the mainstream press sponsored and controlled by “Rome” (the big monopolies), refusing the social intimidation.
We also need freedom of commerce. A dictatorship can easily control our ability to “buy and sell.” This is a term used in the biblical letter of Revelation for how Rome and Jeruslem controlled commerce, jobs, promotions, and careers, in the days of Nero. These economic factors are coming under more and more central control today. People are starting to use block chain technology for currencies that are free from central control and also hold personal data securely. I don’t know whether block chain has a secure future or not.
Some people I know are withdrawing more from the mainstream to start establishing a more barter kind of community, where goods and services can be exchanged free of central control. I am pretty certain that in the kingdom of God we won’t use money as a means of exchange, but mutual sharing, each one serving the other according to our diverse skills and contributions. We will live on faith (trust), hope, and love, not on secure cash reserves. It is definitely a good thing to deurbanise and build Christ following communities in rural areas to rehabilitate the environment, farming practices, relationships, families, health, and non-monopolised economies. Our nations urgently need this. The rebuilding of Christian community in this way is a renewing witness to materialism, wealth, and power so urgently needed today. This materialism exists within modern Christianity. Ancient hermits and monasteries gave witness against this, renewing many Christian communities, even in urban areas. Such radicalism is needed to awaken us where consumerism has dulled us.
CFM desires to build local communities that look more to local relationships and local productivity and disconnect from global monopolies. We definitely need more of this in all our local communities that have been ravished and impoverished by these powers, with more self-determination and local income capacity that isn’t under central control from larger governments and cities. As we rebuild local determinism, freeing ourselves from “Rome,” we must do it in love and avoid isolation, racism, exclusion of others in need and right-wing movements of nationalism.
One of the things that causes us to cling onto central power is its army we think will save us. This has become an idolatry in the modern world. We trust in the armed forces more than we trust in God. We pay a huge price for this protection, eventually the loss our of freedom to all that the state demands of us. Life might be hard, and we might suffer, but God doesn’t take away our freedom. But in “freeing” ourselves from God’s yoke, we have made ourselves slaves. Another reason we cling to centralism is because of the good life we hope to have, connecting to its commercial benefits. But this isn’t the true good life. It’s another form of idolatry for which we will pay dearly. These masters are not benevolent. God doesn’t punish us for our idolatry, rather the masters we choose do.